My Best Friend

I was gonna actually write a post about the shit people we don’t need in our lives, but I took a step back and felt that I should, instead, honour the people I treasure.

We met 17 years ago. We were two new students in class. I had another best friend from age 12, but that didn’t work out, and one day in Malay class (she sat beside me but she didn’t take Malay), I asked if she would be okay if I spent recess with her sometimes. She gave me an enthusiastic ‘Of course!’ and we had been recess buddies since then.

I had a massive crush on this Malay guy in class, and we were all gonna go hang out at Syafiqah’s flat one day. I stayed one block away, and I went home to change. Nini would have been at Syafiqah’s first, and judging by how longkang kids’ mouths could be, I expected to be teased for having a crush on my classmate when I eventually sat foot at Syafiqah’s. But because Nini Chaiyanara was, and is, not mulut longkang, nobody knew about my embarrassing massive crush.

Until today she is the only person (aside from John) that I could be honest about everything happening in my life. She was there during my good days, and more during my bad days.

When my mom died, she came over a few days after that. We hadn’t spoken in two years. We sat at McDonald’s and I teased her that I would be milking my mom’s death for all it was worth. With absolute no hesitation, she said ‘Okay!’ I haven’t pulled that card out yet, but whenever I feel sad about my mom these days, I reach out to her and she is there.

We loveddddd the same music. I always tease her about The Weeknd. I used to like his songs when he first started out (when he was known as The Weekday, and no she did not appreciate that joke).

Her love is like no other. This was the kid who went to rugby seven games with me, she would call people I hated ‘fat’ just to show solidarity, she would always get me munchies even now when we are 30, she knew I was (still am) a fat ass and always needed something to chew. She experimented with makeup on me, she told me to put down that damn Archie comic I am talking to you! She taught me how to eat Indian food. How to appreciate pasta. Shared her breakfast sandwich with me in class. We mixed drinks in my bedroom before clubbing. We were underaged but she would tell me to scoot so she could buy us the forbidden fruit. Copied off her Chemistry test papers. Got As on them.

She wiped my tears whenever I felt the entire world came crumbling down. About jobs. About my mom. About boyfriends. When I got beaten up by that loser, I appeared at her flat. I couldn’t reach her. She opened the door. Gave me a hug. She was nauseated. Heavily pregnant. Of course she gave me an earful about him after that. ‘I TOLD YOU SO!’ Made me stay for dinner. She always made me stay for dinner.

Her love is very fierce. It is a lot. She could choose to not love me because everyone knows I am a piece of shit sometimes, but she never cared about all that.

We text constantly. I think our texts have never ended.

She always motivates me. But she is fierce about certain things so I appreciate her keeping me grounded.

Sorry for always being a piece of shit. I love you always and forever. 😘

How to live without a mother

So okay my mom taught me a lot of things. One thing she didn’t teach me was how to live without her. Just a little bit over an hour ago I was telling my best friend how much I missed my mom. It’s not something I expect anyone to understand or relate to. So these are some pointers you can think about. If you have any tips you can send them my way.

I write this post because last week I was in Sydney, and every store I went to had posters of what to gift a mother for Mother’s Day. I was at first going.. okay, this is like Valentine’s Day.. very commercialised.. I get it, but after a while it started punching my gut, my throat, possibly my kidneys (both of them) so suddenly I was miserable. But I can be quite a determined sonofagun and I refuse to be too miserable.

Take baby steps

I did not feel any sadness or loss up to two weeks after my mom died, but it finally sank in for me. I noticed certain things in my behaviour (I can be pretty extreme in my moods) after that. Some of my friends and colleagues have mentioned ‘patience’ and ‘positivity’ a lot. These two things do not come naturally to me, so I try to remember that, and take it one day at a time. It helps when I force myself to smile. I also use combat classes (designed for women!) when I know I need the extra-happy feeling. When I go for a 50-minute high intensity combat class at 7pm, the ‘drug’ wears off around 4pm the next day. I’ll take what I can at this point.

Occupy yourself with activities (better yet, find new hobbies)

This seems like a no-brainer. I have a lot of days I feel like doing nothing except just Netflix. This includes days I am at work. Some days I am very inspired. So on days like that I am out in the gym, I go to a group exercise, and I meet people. I don’t guarantee that you won’t come home and bawl your eyes out (because it has happened to me lots), but at least your time is occupied for a few hours. I usually do this to tire myself out so that at the end of the day, I just take a shower and go right to bed.

Ask for help

I am lucky my network is wide enough. I have friends who take me dancing. I have friends who stay up entertaining me when it gets really tough. I have friends who lunch with me when I need company. All this would not be possible if 1) they do not have big hearts, and 2) if I did not ask for help.

The issue is I am naturally aloof. I don’t really talk about feelings to people I do not feel close to. I realised I was also always hesitant to ask for help. But I stopped that and now tell my friends when I need extra support (like a great bra!) and so far have been #blessed with kind souls. It helps a little especially on days where I really need extra care.

I also try my hardest not to impose on my friends (sorry John!) so I am thankful for that emo support hotline that calls me every now and then to make sure I don’t want to jump off a building. I have reassured them a few times I would choose carbon monoxide poisoning if I ever want to do that. All right I am really just kidding! But talk to someone trained to help others in similar situations.

Take care of yourself

Exercise. Read. Eat healthy. Get enough rest. Be with people when you need company. Don’t be with people when you need a timeout.

I try to do all that. But it is tough sometimes! As a treat I sometimes buy chocolate and eat.

Experience new things

This is a bit tough for me because I think I’ve tried most things twice and Singapore is not exactly so forward or ahead of the trend. So things get boring quick.

What I am sad about is, my mom was my life and I have some guilt about making new memories without her. I think it is natural, because whenever I was into something when she was still around, I made her invest!

Whenever I see adverts for interesting things/activities these days I try to try them out. Sometimes laziness trumps, but again, just take some time. You might even enjoy yourself, or find a new hobby in the process.

I believe this whole grieving is a lifelong process. I try not to be too hard on myself. Some days I am successful. Some days I feel defeated. But the only thing that keeps me going on is the realisation that I have to be responsible for my life, and to be happy and at peace I need to alter certain parts of my lifestyle and quit whining so much.

Have a great weekend, to whoever is reading.

I love you, Mommy and Happy Mother’s Day. ❤️❤️

Instagram Superstar

Social media work for me because I am lazy as hell. There are people I know in real life that I have not seen in years and I like to keep it that way. Not a reflection on them; I am just lazy to put on going-out clothes. When we go out we also have to talk, which I sometimes don’t want to do. Used to love going out but these days I like quiet. Everything I do is quiet. Not sex. And, not eating. 🌝 But I’m not the slurping kind. I go chew-chew like a train. There’s this guy at my workplace who once ate noodles for breakfast and I could hear him slurping away enthusiastically and loudly and he is seated about 2 meters away. It was quite gross. Bleargh~ He also has that breathe-through-mouth face.

Anyway. I digress.

My best friend wants to be an Instagram superstar. I am usually supportive of her endeavours (except, if it involved drugs. I’d drop her faster than Taylor Swift dropped Selena Gomez from her ‘squad’) but I don’t really like Instagram. I’m old. I’m a Facebook-but-not-fake-news kind of person. Not everything is Instagram-worthy.

At this point, we are trying to learn everything we can about Instagram. I know some things, of course. In fact, I switched to an android device from a Blackberry 5 years ago because I wanted to be on Instagram and look at photos. Then I realised I didn’t really like having strangers randomly liking my posts so I made the account private. Then I also realised when I privatised the account with only 100+ followers there wasn’t much engagement.

So these are some things I’ve learnt about Instagram. They probably might not help you become an overnight superstar (I almost wrote supervisor), but maybe you can bear all these in mind.

Banned Hashtags on Instagram

Okay I don’t have the link to this but you can check out a couple of websites (don’t be lazy, just Google!!) that list down the banned hashtags. Banned meaning if you use these hashtags your posts might not appear on people’s feeds, subsequently decreasing your reach, and if anyone searched for that particular hashtag nothing will show up. Some banned hashtags I can remember include : #newyears #girl #woman (mostly anything to do with women or body image) #teens #girlsonly #lingerie #tgif (what the!) #snapchat (this makes sense, come on people!) anything porno or unsavoury. #eggplant #curvy (does this mean I can’t sell plus sized clothes?) So don’t use these hashtags. You also can’t use tags that aren’t related to the post, or tags for a prolonged period. It would just come across as spammy.

Using Bots would get you into Trouble

One of the things my best friend and I are working on is to increase followers and likes organically. There’s actually no reason to want to buy followers and likes. 1) We don’t have extra money lying around to justify doing this, so we are happy Instagram doesn’t allow it. 2) We really want genuine engagement. We want to know posts to which people positively respond. Don’t use bots. You might risk getting banned.

Timing is Everything

I don’t like posting anything on Saturdays. I am sure there are marketing people seated in a cubicle farm in the US that study all these things, and the insights might apply to only people in that region but Singapore Instagrammers can also follow certain guidelines. Some days are really more popular than others. Saturdays are out especially when you have a small number of followers. Wednesdays on Facebook work for me, never tried it on Instagram. So once I come up with a cough chart with details I will share the insights. Free.

Photos People Like

This is just my observation. It might not be true. I am open to debate. It might not even apply to you if you resided outside of Singapore. Mostly Singaporeans like photos of/such as:

– Food (especially nice photos of food)

– Babies or kids

– Luxury items/Socialites flaunting luxury items

– Local or regional celebrities

– Activities and events (art, sports, exercise/fitness)

– Colour (we are not Kanye West, so go easy on black/grey and start experimenting with every colour on kuler)

– Travel (doesn’t really matter where; cheap and good is fine, expensive and lux is fine too)

They mostly don’t like sales-sy photos, (true for all platforms) so if you use Instagram for business you might want to be less sales-ly. At this point I don’t know how to be less sales-sy so watch this space.

Looks can be important, but they are not everything

I say this because I had a colleague who posts really high quality photos. Everything is on fleek. She also can be categorised as beautiful. But people don’t really care enough to double tap her posts. For someone who has at least 300 followers, her likes are in the range of 1 – 10, especially with no hashtags, which is not even 10%. Likability is definitely a factor, plus she hardly likes anyone else’s posts, which is weird because this is social media. You have to be.. social.. There’s also this guy I swiped right on Tinder once and for someone who is actively involved in media he gets really lousy engagement. And I realised it’s cause he comes off as pompous. People don’t like that, you can be inspiring, yes, but you must appear to be just like us. Not too fake.

When I discover more insights I will share. Now I have to take a shower to go to my day job. 🌝

What’s Been Happening

To make a long story shorter, I’ll do this in bullet point form. We are gonna see April soon, and my last post was in January.. and a lot of things happened between then and now.

  • My mom passed away in mid-February. I considered writing a post about her but my worries were many; anything I wrote then would have been too little, or too much, and then I went through a period I didn’t want to think about it, and then I also went through a period where her death was all I thought about. There was no point writing about the memories. I am in general not a sad person, nor an extremely cheerful one.. stoic maybe, troubled maybe, but sad and/or pathetic aren’t words I’d use to describe myself. It has been quite difficult to adjust especially when many rituals are gone: an example is in the mornings before leaving the house for work, I’d be in my underwear looking for clothes to wear while having entire conversations with her. This would go on for about 40 minutes before I finally kissed her goodbye and said things like ‘I will miss you’ or we’d go back and forth with I love yous. So the first day back at work was tough. I remember just sitting there staring at my computer the whole morning trying to process. It has been getting better lately, but I still have moments where I would curl into a fetal position and just cry. These moments are unexpected and sometimes triggered by something totally random.
  • Leading up to my mom’s death I was a mess. John was very supportive, so was Su. There were a lot of moments that frustrated me. I had a relative try taking photos of my mom with tubes all over her body. I of course spoke up and told her I’d prefer if she didn’t post anything on social media. I don’t normally give a fuck what people post on Facebook, there’s always an unfollow button and no hard feelings, but this was my mother. I’d never do this to anyone’s mother or for that matter, anyone. Apparently speaking up was not a positive thing to do because the culprit (haha) did not attend my mom’s funeral. If she needed content to boost likes or engagement on her Facebook I’d gladly share ideas. I also didn’t care if she didn’t attend the funeral. I would however prefer if my mom dying weren’t the subject of someone’s Facebook post.
  • I also had people who tried to demonstrate they understood my culture, but there is a difference between cultural awareness and cultural sensitivity. I don’t really care if you know certain things about my culture, because half the time I don’t even know about them.. or practise.
  • A colleague of mine lent me two books to read. They’re on business and motivation. I have really short attention span these days, and getting motivated is the least of my concerns, so maybe I should have mentioned it’d be a while before the books made their way back to his hands. Reading diet really unhealthy these days, so I try to compensate by reading articles on the www.
  • Told John a while ago about how-to books that I read. Usually I know the ‘what’ of things. Books usually explain the ‘what’ clearly. But most fail at the ‘how’, which is quite funny (crinkle nose) because that’s kinda the whole point I bought the books in the first place.
  • My brother and I are working on writing a book together as a tribute to our mom. Lately I’ve been busy at work, so this is the weekend leading up to Easter so I have an extra off day and plenty of time to work out the first steps to actually writing the book, but all I’ve done so far is eat. I have a book on my lap now but I am not sure if I’d doze off in a couple of minutes. 🌝

That’s all for today. Thanks for reading, whoever you are. ❤️

Sydney.. is the place to be

I have not been blogging for more than four months because I was going through a tough time in life. Yesterday was Sunday, and although I really wanted to stay in bed all day, I forced myself to: clean out my bookshelf, throw some things out from the fridge, take a walk around the neighbourhood, go to the supermarket, knead some dough, let it rest, do laundry, and make dinner.

I thought all these activities would tire me out, but oh how naive, it didn’t ‘cure’ my anxiety or insomnia one bit, and I groaned when I awoke an hour after I ‘successfully’ fell asleep. I need to see the doctor.

Some acquaintances have been telling me oh you need therapy, oh you need to relax, oh you need to stop smoking so you can buy a nice car, oh this and that. Let’s just say this: I didn’t choose to have trouble sleeping, I didn’t sit down, pore over my choices, and then decide HEY LET ME BE THIS SAD AND ANXIOUS! IT’S PROBABLY FUN!

Anyway.

I went to Sydney. I had never been to Australia before this trip because I never had any reason or interest to visit. I was also aware I probably would not enjoy something village-y after Yogyakarta, which I will write about soon, and I really wanted to relax. I flew to Sydney in the wee hours of the Friday morning before Christmas, reached slightly after lunch (still Friday). Immigration was a bit slow. It was officially summer already, but because of how and where Sydney is located, it got pretty cold in the evening. I had a moto jacket for flights but never thought to bring anything else jacket-y or warm.

A lot of Singaporeans like to mention that Australia is racist. I never travelled much but have to say never been discriminated against except one time in Shanghai some guy on a bicycle spat at me and Mimi. It was a racist spit because he half-yelled ‘MALAYSIA!’ before spitting. Should have whipped my passport out!

I (thankfully) did not experience discrimination in Sydney. Maybe because the place I stayed (Bankstown) had a lot of Vietnamese restaurants and other Asian types around😊

I am on mobile so don’t know if the formatting would be weird. Here are some pictures:

Price-wise for food, Sydney can be a bit expensive compared to Singapore. The portion is of course larger than Singapore’s, and I had Greek food the first night I was there. Loved the Haloumi cheese sticks, not so much the chips (fries), but LOVED the calamari souvlaki and lamb wrap. It was a bit too much for me, though.

I also wanted my fair share of touristy things, possibly because I knew people were gonna ask, ‘Did you see this and that?’ When I came back to Singapore I thought about it and realised I didn’t give a rat’s ass. If I didn’t go, I didn’t go! Nobody should care, because I certainly don’t.

So I went to:

1) Take a ferry to Darling Harbour

2) Take a ferry to Watsons Bay

3) Visit Featherdale Wildlife Park

4) Visit Blue Mountains

5) Buy sashimi at Sydney Fish Market

The rest of the things I did were not exactly touristy.

I went to Newtown to look at Gould’s Books (store). One thing I love about Sydney is the signs are hilarious! You would never see such things in Singapore because we are mostly business-like. For example:

I just thought it was funny. I can imagine people in Singapore going ‘Why must say it is for humans? Isn’t that implied?

And this one:

And Kiss and Ride. Google it. I had to turn around and take a photo because all these things amused me.

Also, I saw a lot of graffiti. The Singaporean in me was a bit ‘hmmm’ but I got used to it. And I was fascinated by the power lines and the massive space in Sydney.

Pictures of the ferry rides:

The Sydney Opera House is actually beige/something not white. I always thought it was white.

Went to the wildlife park en route to Blue Mountains. We saw all kinds of birds (pelicans, ibises, cassowary) wallabies, wallaroos, kangaroos, dingoes, koalas, wombats. For 2 dollars a cup you can feed the marsupials. Not the koalas who were mostly asleep.

I will continue later. Now I need to quickly go home and study for an exam I’m taking soon.

Things I Hear (and see) At Work

I have worked in the education sector for close to six years now. When I was 19, I worked in the government sector. I was fired three years after that.

I did something else for close to ten months and then I got a job in a polytechnic. Gig lasted almost 3 years, and then I worked in another school for 6 months. The second gig was not fun. Then I was jobless for another 6 months, and then I got a job at my current workplace. Love it. Stressful? Sometimes. Fun? Yes.

Shit I Heard/See

There are many schools in Singapore. I work in post-secondary schools so you would think people would be clever-er. They are not! (spoiler alert)

  • The One With JPEG

In one of my gigs my job was to ensure that course notes were printed and delivered on time. There was a short course on how to fix the a/c and this old guy (the instructor) came to give me his notes. Around 200 pages of JPEG images. He saved his ENTIRE course notes in jpeg format. Who. The. Fuck. Does. That?! My computer would not allow me to print in sequence with a click of a button so I had to sit there for at least 30 minutes to print all. This was worse than the time I chastised someone for printing ONE PPT SLIDE per page. 297 pages. What a waste of paper! You need almost 150 sheets of paper!

  • The One With Competitors

I had a colleague with three school-going children. She was very Malay, and when I say this I don't mean the good Malay. I mean the kind of Malay you are glad you see only sometimes. I was telling her over breakfast that my brother went to NTU, but he went to an art school before that and her face drew a blank. "NAFA?" I said. "Private art school," I explained. I mean come on. LASALLE was and still is probably the most popular, and then you have the Chinese school NAFA! How could you not know when you work in that sector? My mom of course knows. She paid for it! Anyway makcik bodoh la.

  • The One Without The Slide

I had this superior once who was quite annoying. I don't know whether it was age, or it's just him, but he invited an agency over to do business with us. I was not invited to this particular meeting but at the last minute he made me attend. So agency gave the briefing for the school (my workplace) to take over this portion, and I sat through the meeting in my pjyama pants and flip flops. Deputy Director was ready to say yes. So I said "Where are your slides on the numbers?" "Oh we didn't prepare that" Me: "Well I need to see them. I need to know how much money I can expect to make a year" "Oh. Okay. We don't have that slide" "Why not make that slide and come back and present it? So I can see whether it makes sense?" "Oh okay"

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid!

This was the same boss who said my bringing in the business would be parked under Business Development. I signed a company for SGD 20,000 per course for 8 students and they were doing it four times and I did the business over email… no phone calls.. no handshake necessary, just three-liner emails and quick fire response.

I still hate that boss. He is a nice person but at work he was rubbish.

  • The One With The Barking

I'd like to think I am a reasonable person. I do not get upset when I receive emails from angry students or mothers, and what I do is defuse the situation. I usually do this with emotion out of the way. Then after work I'd just bitch about it to my loved ones.

One time a student wrote in CAPS: "[My name] DO YOU WANT ME TO BARK LIKE A DOG! (plus expletives) So customer service sent the email to me and cc-ed my AVP and SVP to deal with it.

I didn't respond to the student directly but shot customer service, my AVP, the SVP, and my supervisor an email about 1) getting Planning (the fellas in charge of timetables) to explain the frequent change in schedules (which was the crux of the issue) and 2) coming forward to support staff (i.e. me) when they face abuse from students. Everyone scrambled to apologise to me and made Planning deal with student. I no longer received any emails from customer service.

I also have terrible stories about front desk and customer service in general but I am tired now I want to watch Bojack.

Things That Make Me Miss New York

I Netflix a lot for someone who is busy. Currently I watch Shooter. I don't think it has an excellent rating but I like shows with guns.

Other shows I like include: The Blacklist, Suits, Elementary (the first three seasons), The Good Wife, comedy specials such as Trevor Noah's Afraid of the Dark, John Mulaney The Comeback Kid (I also enjoyed New In Town), Sarah Silverman's A Speck of Dust.

I watched BoJack Horseman earlier this week and I saw:

See painting behind the female character (Diane Nyugen). Isn't that… a.. Matisse?

Shown in Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan.

And then a couple of months ago I watched The Blacklist.

Tom Keen in a laundromat. The same one I went to the Sunday I flew back to Singapore. I spent almost 2 hours doing laundry because I didn't want my mom to have to wash 10 days worth of clothes.

I miss New York! 😦